Varanasi:As the world knows this ancient town of India is so vivid, bright, full of life and optimism.
Benaras the holy city is known by many names. It is called Varanasi and Kashi and since it is on the banks of the Ganga, the city is one of the most visited in India. It is known for its rich history, art, craft and textiles. Filled with temples and Ghats and a lot of tourist attractions Benaras is a tourist’s delight.
The first place on our list was of course the majestic Ganga, which starts in the Himalayas and flows down. When we went there were thousands of people offering prayers, taking a holy dip and just meditating along the banks. There are several other Ghats like Kedar, Manikarnika and Assi and many more all along the banks of the Ganga where people like to pray.
The Dashashwamedh Ghat is one of the most popular since people come to see the aarti when floating lamps are released by people into the river.
Sarnath, 10 kms from Benaras, is the Dhamekh Stupa and the holy site of Lord Buddha where he first preached is a must see. Near by is the excavation area which reveals a lost civilization.
The International Music Centre Ashram is one of the best places where we got the taste of the Benarsi music. The Archaeological Museum is a great little place to visit with artefacts and ancient relics. Temples are many startling with the Tibetan Temple, the Golden and Monkey temples. Shopping in Benaras is a dream. Obviously the first thing that we wanted to buy was Benarsi fabrics.
It is a heaven for lovers of beautiful weaves and we couldn’t stop marvelling at the grandeur of the craftsmanship. Like other tourists, we bought Benarasi brocade saris and silk fabrics for dresses, though it was incredibly expensive we didn’t resist the urge to buy some Organza and Tanchhui.
Of course there is nothing more beautiful than the hand knotted carpets and the musical instruments are also great buys.
Shawls, wall hangings, zari work, stone inlay work and jewellery with glass beads and bangles were fabulous gifts that we bought. Betel leaves are a specialty of Benaras so we bought some as the plain leaf is healthy to eat.
An interesting gift was the brass water pot called kamandalam which saints carried water in and now it could be good show piece.
Banaras has some delicious local cuisine, which we wanted to try. Curry made from black soybean was delicious with white rice. Street food is one of the best in Benaras. At Dalmadi and Muslim dominated Nai Sarak we try some mouth watering Mutton Kebabs and Biryani is superb together.
Vishwanath Gali comes inside the Red Zone, which means it was under high alert, para military troops, plain clothed cops were all ready to cope with any kind of terror attack in order to save highly sensitive Vishwanath Temple and Gyan Vapi Mosque, both stand in a comman premises, that makes it quite vulnerable. Yet here in this narrow lane has a line of street food stalls, which sell all types of Indian food. The super soft idlis were mouth watering and so were the vadas. Lassi in Benaras is a ‘must have’ especially at a place called Blue Lassi, which has lassi with all types of fruits mixed into it. A place called Kachauri Gali has kachauris of all kinds and each one is more delicious than the other.
Benaras is like a magical place, which one can visit over and over without getting bored as there is so much to see, eat, and enjoy… and above all to learn. Next time, I will come up with highly recommended place for learning Classic Music, Yoga… and spirituality.
by Shabab Khan
© India’s Wonderlands 2016-17